Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

"It's because of the Jewish people that I know

that a holiday can be a holy day,

and still be rollicking good fun.

I've been to a Passover Seder,

where there's so much liturgy, drama, food and family around the table

that children ask, "Why is this night different from other nights?"

It's a night, like the weekly Sabbath,

when God gives us permission to close the door on the frenzied demands of the outside world long enough to sense His presence."



Christmas Eve. I've lived through 22 Christmas Eves, and hope by midnight tonight to make it 23. In four different states, at least, I've attended Christmas Eve services. So the last few years, I haven't been that interested in going. Tradition has its value, I guess. But if one is participating in tradition for its sake, I'd hope that the tradition was started because it meant something. The problem with my aversion to Christmas Eve services is that I have been unable to defend it. I haven't known why I don't want to go, or what I would rather do instead.


Now I think I have an answer. I don't like Christmas Eve services because they are formal and liturgical, full of presentation and lacking in sincerity. Churches use them as times for evangelism. In my experience I've been instructed to leave quietly after extinguishing my candle, in solemn reflection on the incarnation. I don't know about you, but I cannot reflect on the incarnation without humble jubilation. Winter may be for silence and meditation, but Christmas is for feasting and music and lights.


And I miss fellowship on Christmas. I know that traditionally Christmas is a family time. Your own or even your extended family gathers for gift-giving, music, candles, Christmas trees, conversation, and candy. I guess traditionally Christmas Eve is the time to spend with one's church family. But I want to be laughing with them, asking them about their holidays, heightening enthusiasm, and dispersing the gifts I've prepared for them. Being sent to quietly retrieve my coat and exit towards my car prohibits that sort of community. But I don't want to defy the instructions, or intrude upon others who appreciate the meditative hush of typical Christmas Eve.


So I like Elisabeth's insight from Israel, on how the Jews (quite biblically in this instance) know how to have a holy day: it is also a feast day. Both a sabbath of rest and a reunion of merriment, even with the solemnity of meaning, sacrifice, atonement, and repentance. Jesus unites those things in His incarnation: King of Righteousness, Prince of Peace, Lord of the Sabbath, our Rest, and our Joy. That's what I'm celebrating this Christmas Eve: a God big enough to be seriously happy, and who invites us to feast at His table.



This is totally unrelated, but another thing Elisabeth says in her article is, "Have you ever thought about how quiet light is?" I thought it was beautiful, and had to share that line, too.


To God be all glory.

2 comments:

Mac.AmideDieu said...

"How quiet light is." =)

ha ha!!! =)

Yes... beautiful. =)

-MAC <>< =)

åslaug said...

I agree, I don't recognize with that sort of Christmas Eve services, but in my opinion you're very true about the fact that Our God, is a God big enough to be seriously happy (I liked that line, I think I'll have to write it down)and that we're invited to feast at His table =) and also that a holiday should be a holy day and a feast. A sabbath of rest and a reunion of merriment. Christmas IS feasting, music and lights. After all, what we really DO is celebrate the birth of Christ =)

Soli Deo Gloria,
have a lovable day =)
åslaug